The West Virginia Supreme Court has annulled the law license for the former legal director of the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union.
In a 5-0 decision, the court annulled Jamie Lynn Crofts’ law license and ordered her to pay $134.54 in restitution to a former client, after it took Crofts two years to get two settlement checks, totaling $10,000, to the client.
In the order, the court also ordered that if Crofts attempts to get her license back, she will have to “produce a medical opinion from an independent medical examiner indicating that she is fit to engage in the practice of law.”
The court’s order is in-line with recommendations made by a hearing panel subcommittee for the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board.
On behalf of the ACLU, Crofts in 2016 filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kelsey Legg, who was an inmate at South Central Regional Jail during the Elk River chemical spill in January 2014, which affected the water purity for more than 300,000 residents in nine counties, including Kanawha, and those incarcerated at South Central.
Legg sued the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority. She alleged inmates weren’t given enough water to drink or bathe with during the water crisis and that those who sought medical attention due to dehydration or exposure to the contaminated water were punished, according to Legg’s lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
At the time of the chemical spill, Legg was awaiting trial for being an accessory in the murder of Kareem Hunter in 2013.
Former Kanawha circuit judge Paul Zakaib sentenced Legg to spend between six and eight years in prison in June 2014. The West Virginia Parole Board voted to release Legg from prison in November 2017.
In February 2017, the ACLU settled the lawsuit, with Legg set to receive $10,000 while she still was an inmate at Lakin Correctional Facility, according to the recommendation filed by the disciplinary board subcommittee.
When she was released from prison, Legg still had not received the settlement money, and she visited Crofts’ office multiple times and called Crofts in an attempt to obtain the settlement money.
The restitution the court ordered Crofts to pay is to compensate Legg for her travel and expenses from visiting Crofts in attempts to obtain the settlement checks.
On May 24, 2018, Legg filed a complaint with the Lawyer Disciplinary Board’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel about the issue.
Crofts, who began working as legal director for the state ACLU in February 2016, stepped down from that position in June 2018.
Legg told the office that Crofts had produced a voided copy of a settlement check for the entire settlement amount, but said the check had gone stale and was void.
Legg said Crofts provided her with a portion of the settlement on May 24 and “promised the remaining portion of the settlement would be available in the future,” according to the subcommittee’s filing.
By Aug. 16, 2018, Legg said she had obtained the rest of the settlement.
Crofts never responded to the complaint against her or complied with the subpoena issued for her to testify before the disciplinary board’s hearing subcommittee, according to the court filing.
The subcommittee’s court filing, it notes that its members “have concerns regarding [Crofts’] mental fitness, and hope that [Crofts] voluntarily seeks assistance with the West Virginia Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program.”
Per the rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure, Crofts will be eligible to file a petition to reinstate her license in five years after submitting the medical opinion ordered by the court.